The Hound of Baskerville- Sherlock 2 years on
*So Sherlock returns on the 1st January. You guys must prepare yourself for an onslaught of fangirling from myself. So to prepare, this is my review of Hound of Baskerville that I wrote for my university newspaper. I promise there will be new stuff.*
Ask anyone to name a Sherlock Holmes story; they will most likely say The Hound of the Baskervilles. It is undoubtedly the most famous of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s tales and features the most intriguing of plot points, the great detective versus the elusive supernatural demon dog. It was with this in mind that many Sherlock fans went into The Hounds of Baskerville, co creator Mark Gatiss’ offering for this series.
In true Sherlock style, the episode began entirely unexpectedly with Sherlock himself, covered in blood, brandishing a rather terrifying looking harpoon, drawling “Well that was tedious”. Whilst a fantastically comedic moment the sight of Sherlock drenched in blood certainly set the tone for a thrilling and horrific episode. Soon after this comes the glorious sight of a manic, cigarette deprived detective, his speech fast, his eyes wide and mercilessly deducing about the affairs of Mrs Hudson’s current beau, Mr Chatterjee from the café. His ennui and restlessness is cured by the arrival of Russell Tovey, wonderfully playing the damaged Henry Knight. Twenty years previously Knight witnessed the horrific death of his father, supposedly by a gigantic demon hound. With these words, Sherlock and John are soon speeding through the bleak but beautiful countryside of Dartmoor. As in A Scandal in Belgravia, Paul McGuigan’s direction is truly spectacular, portraying Dartmoor in all its haunting and mystifying glory, contrastingly wonderfully with the usual urban landscape of Sherlock’s normal stomping ground, London.
Bypassing some shenanigans with Sherlock betting with a local guide insistent that he has seen the eponymous hound, Sherlock and John break into the high security military testing unit of Baskerville, with Sherlock ‘borrowing’ the identity of elder brother Mycroft, played with great aplomb by writer Mark Gatiss, to investigate a child’s missing luminous rabbit. It is worth mentioning the fantastic supporting cast of Sherlock. Twenty Twelve’s Amelia Bullmore gives a marvellous turn as Dr Stapleton, a seemingly unfeeling geneticist who, it transpires, is linked to Bluebell the glowing rabbit and is used masterfully by Mark Gatiss as a sneaky red herring. Russell Tovey gives a harrowing performance as the broken and desperate Henry. He shakes and screams and looks exhausted permanently. It is a performance that differs greatly from his usual, stereotypically “laddish” roles and I feel that he was sadly underused within episode, only appearing on screen for a few minutes. Rupert Graves also appears rather briefly, to continue his magnificient portrayal of Lestrade, reunited the trio towards the very end of the episode.
After a sighting of the Hound, Benedict Cumberbatch too gets to emphasise his extraordinary acting skills when he portrays a side to Sherlock that we would never have expected to see, with such heart breaking honesty and emotion. The tears well up in his eyes as his shaking hand gives away the fact that the great Sherlock Holmes is beside himself with fear and doubt. Equally impressive is the incredibly quick fire deduction about a mother and son sitting at a table nearby, once again a credit to Cumberbatch’s enormous talent as he rattles off detail at a speed that is almost difficult for an audience to keep up with. The inclusion of the terrified Sherlock is a fascinating choice as it casts seeds of doubt within the audience’s mind as to whether or not there really could be something sinister on the moors.
Series 2 of Sherlock has fully established the friendship between John and Sherlock and this is fully demonstrated during a sweet scene in which Sherlock, in his blunt and roundabout way, attempts to apologise and with the line “I don’t have friends. I only have one.” we truly learn the significance of John to Sherlock.
A marvellous element in this episode is Mark Gatiss’ dark humour, primarily seen in a lewd but hilarious scene in which John, thinking he has found a lead in some Morse code that has been projected from the hillside, accidentally stumbles upon a dogging site; a witty and ridiculous juxtaposition from the intense scene that preceded it. It is also clear through moments such as when John is hiding in a cage from the hound, which had me hiding behind a cushion for the majority of it, the audience witness Mark Gatiss’ deep love and mastery of the horror genre, using merely noises and John’s absolute fear to make for a very uneasy few moments of viewing.
Another example of the beautiful, cinematic aesthetic of the show is the utterly mesmerising mind palace sequence, beautifully created by the editor Charlie Phillips. The combined effort between Benedict Cumberbatch and himself makes it look so beautiful and swift, whereas in other hands it may have looked ridicolous. It was a fascinating insight into the mind of Sherlock Holmes. Particularly impressive was the physicalisation of the fact that he has realised what he is dealing with. He is literally hit by it, moving backwards in his seat and his breathing slowing.
So to the gripping face off in the suitably spooky Dewers Hollow. Unfortunately the hound itself was a disappointment: the tension spoilt by some cheap and sub par looking CGI effects. But the hound, however, is quickly forgotten as the group rush in pursuit of the true villain, who meets his unfortunate end at the Baskerville land mine.
After the tension and adrenaline rush of Dewers Hollow, audiences were grateful to return to the quiet of the Dartmoor country pub where the close relationship between Sherlock and John is once again, displayed on screen. It is revealed, to great comic effect, that Sherlock had drugged John in order to test his theory of foul play and had constructed John’s encounter in the lab, sitting nonchalantly with his feet up, creating hound sounds. We are offered once again in this series a view that Sherlock is in fact a human being as John bravely points out that Sherlock was actually wrong this time.
Once again the BBC delivered a thrilling and highly entertaining episode, not quite on par with the sublime A Scandal in Belgravia but a wonderful adaptation of an absolute classic and a marvellous precursor to the next episode. Sherlock’s outwitted The Woman, he’s beaten the Hound, now he must prepare for the Fall.